With a large landscape bursting with colour and ‘joie de vivre’, it’s no wonder we can’t keep away from France’s gorgeous golden shores.
Yet despite its scope, and abundance of lovely locations, you can still find yourself encountering the very things you went on holiday to avoid: overcrowded beaches, long queues and playing the world’s least enjoyable game of ‘Where’s Wally?’ with car parking spaces and sun loungers…
If you want to beat the French crowds and enjoy cleaner, warmer water in complete tranquillity then head inland and enjoy the natural beauty of one of France’s best-kept holiday secrets this summer: lake and river beaches.
France’s inland beaches are a thing of beauty with lush, verdant borders, miles of unspoilt, sandy shores and crystal clear waters to enjoy. What’s more they’re often accessible and offer more amenities than their coastal cousins.
Here’s our pick of France’s best lake and river beaches for summer.
Pont d’Arc, the Ardèche
Part of the glorious Gorges de l’Ardèche, and often referred to as the ‘European Grand Canyon’, the Pont d’Arc is a huge natural bridge shaped by the winding river. Needless to say, it’s very popular with climbers and kayakers, but the sandy shores are perfect for basking in the sun and the river is perfect for cooling off in afterwards too.
Aydat Lake, Puy-De-Dome, Auvergne
Located in France’s largest Nature park, Aydat is the largest of Auvergne’s lakes. Edged by woodland, it offers a wealth of activities on its waters, including supervised swimming in July and August, boating and water-sports, fishing and more. The grassy shores offer bars and restaurants, games for children, picnic benches and parking.
Lake Annecy, Haute-Savoie
One of France’s biggest and best-known lakes, there’s no shortage of activities in and around Annecy should you want to do more than just enjoy its famed clear waters. Nature reserves, decorative gardens and walking trails are in abundance, but if you’d prefer a more vibrant slice of life than visit the stylish lakeshore nightclubs – open into the early hours.
Soustons Lake, Landes
The best of both worlds awaits at this beautiful lake in France’s south west. Here you will find a lovely waterside setting just a short distance from the Atlantic coast between Azur and Soustons. The lake itself is nestled amongst pines and offers a tranquil spot for bathing and water-sports. If you want to really dive-in to local life you can enjoy grilled sardine parties and witness the famous stilt-walkers!
Lac de St Croix in Provence
The calm turquoise waters of Lac de Sainte-Croix are perfect for exploring via pedalo – not to mention for cooling off after a spell in the Provencal sunshine. This artificial lake is fed by the breath-taking Verdon Gorge, a popular spot for climbers and hikers comprised of huge limestone outcrops. With parking available all around the lake, it’s perfect for a picnic stop in Provence too!
Pont du Diable, Occitanie
‘Devil’s Bridge’ may not sound like the kind of place you might stop to relax and cool off, but this scenic stop – originally built to allow pilgrims to cross the gorge – offers a wonderfully tranquil experience, providing you don’t mind the spectacle of people plunging into the water from the rocks. The shore is a great place for a picnic but make sure bring shoes and blankets to make it comfy.
Pont du Gard, Languedoc Rousillon / Occitanie
A huge three-tiered Roman aqueduct provides a scenic backdrop to your swimming in this scenic, Southern France location. For this reason Pont du Gard is equally popular for its heritage status as its crystal clear, cool waters, but it’s safe to say that the swimming and kayaking opportunities are equally enchanting.
Lac de la Tricherie, Mesnard-la-Barotiere, Vendee
The scenic setting of this natural park in the Vendee might be perfect for lazing on the grass, but you haven’t really visited Lac de la Tricherie if you haven’t climbed through the trees, fired arrows, dodged paintballs and lasers, played golf and navigated through some of France’s most stunning woodland with map and compass. All this is available in the Tépacap adventure world. Oh, and the lake is a bit special too.